Brazil’s federal Police arrested on Tuesday Deputy Tourism Minister in a corruption sweep tied to funding for major sports events, the latest in a series of scandals to tarnish President Dilma Rousseff’s government.
Deputy Minister Frederico Costa was among 38 tourism ministry officials and entrepreneurs arrested in the operation, federal police said.
Tourism Minister Pedro Novais Lima was called to the presidential palace to give explanations, raising the possibility that Rousseff could lose her fourth cabinet minister since May to graft allegations.
Lima is a member of the PMDB, Rousseff’s main coalition partner, which has been at odds with her since virtually the start of her presidency on Jan. 1 and has partly blocked her agenda in Congress.
The federal police said there were strong indications that public funds earmarked for professional training had been embezzled.
The Brazilian government is funding schools throughout the country to train taxi drivers, waiters and hotel staff as the country prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The police raid is certain to fuel opposition reiterated attempts to launch a formal congressional inquiry into recent corruption allegations involving the federal government. Such an inquiry would have far-reaching powers to investigate allegations.
Several ministers are expected to have to testify before congressional committees over corruption allegations in coming days, potentially further delaying Rousseff’s legislative agenda. The president is also dealing with fresh corruption allegations involving the Agriculture ministry.
Several bills awaiting approval in Congress could boost private investment including a tax overhaul, framework mining legislation and a regulation of oil royalties.
Brazil has already come under fire at home and abroad for delays in infrastructure projects for the World Cup, including airports, roads and soccer stadiums being built or renovated in 12 host cities.
Rousseff enjoys considerable popular support -- although well below the extraordinary ratings of her predecessor Lula da Silva -- in part because of Brazil’s resilient economy but also due to her image as a serious and competent manager.
If she is seen as embracing investigations and carrying out her campaign pledge for clean government, she may not suffer from the latest scandals and could even benefit, anticipate some analysts.
In seven months in office President Rousseff has seen her cabinet chief ousted for alleged enrichment; the Transport minister for bribes and over-billing on tendering contracts; the Defence minister for derogatory remarks referred to ministers named by the president; the Agriculture minister Wagner Rossi could be out any moment for nepotism and cronyism and now the Ministry of Tourism.
The repeated ministerial ousting, sacking and resignation, and naming replacements in the crystal-balanced cabinet of the ten-parties ruling coalition has forced Lula da Silva to come in support of her protégé Dilma, thus weakening her figure.
Furthermore relations between bureaucrat Rousseff and Vice-president Michel Temer are not good. But Temer is head of PMDB, the main partner in the ruling coalition that dominates the Senate and has a blocking condition in the Lower House. Some analysts see the current situation as a ferocious power struggle between the Workers Party and PMDB.
During the previous eight years, the PMDB was also a crucial ally of the government in Congress, but the overwhelming personality of then communicator president Lula da Silva overshadowed any potential challenges or there were no candidates to match him. However PMDB promised that under President Rousseff things would be different and they would demand acknowledgement to the last ounce of their influence.